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Lafourche Parish School Board v. Rodrigue

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

July 18, 2018

LAFOURCHE PARISH SCHOOL BOARD
v.
ELAINE RODRIGUE

          On Appeal from the Office of Workers' Compensation, District 9 In and for the Parish of Lafourche State of Louisiana No. 16-04262 The Honorable Gwendolyn F. Thompson Workers' Compensation Judge Presiding

          Lindsay F. Louapre Attorneys for Appellant #2/Appellee Sherri L. Hutton Lafourche Parish School Board Leslie E. Hodge New Orleans, LA

          Joel Hanberry Attorney for Appellant #1/ Appellee Cut Off, LA Elaine Rodrigue

          BEFORE: HIGGINBOTHAM, HOLDRIDGE, PENZATO, JJ.

          HOLDRIDGE, J.

         Appellant, the Lafourche Parish School Board (School Board) appeals a judgment denying its motion to modify a 1997 judgment of the Office of Workers' Compensation (OWC) rendered in favor of Elaine Rodrigue. Mrs. Rodrigue also appeals the judgment, asking that certain language be stricken therefrom. We maintain the appeal, amend a portion of the judgment, and as amended, affirm.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Most of the facts forming the basis for this appeal can be gleaned from earlier opinions of this court and the OWC in Rodrigue v. Lafourche Parish School Board, 00-0154 (La.App. 1 Cir. 6/23/00) (unpublished), writ denied, 2000-2205 (La. 10/27/00), 772 So.2d 649 (sometimes referred to as Rodrigue I) and Rodrigue v. Lafourche Parish School Board, 2004-1136 (La.App. 1 Cir 5/6/05), 909 So.2d 627, writ denied, 2005-2366 (La. 3/17/06), 925 So.2d 546 (sometimes referred to as Rodrigue II). Mrs. Rodrigue was hired as a paralegal for the School Board in 1983. In 1992, she sustained orthopedic injuries during the course and scope of her employment when she tripped over a rug at work, necessitating surgery. After her surgery, in 1993, Mrs. Rodrigue returned to work and was transferred to a metal building, where she was exposed to noxious odors and fumes. She left her employment in 1994 due to worsening orthopedic problems associated with the trip and fall accident; however, her exposure symptoms progressively worsened. Mrs. Rodrigue was treated by Dr. William Rea, an environmental medicine specialist with the Environmental Center in Dallas, Texas. According to Dr. Rea, Mrs. Rodrigue was suffering from a "damaged detoxification system" due to, among other things, chemical exposures and chemical sensitivity. Dr. Rea opined that the surgery Mrs. Rodrigue underwent as a result of the trip and fall accident weakened her detoxification system, making her vulnerable to overexposure to chemicals in the work environment. Rodrigue II, 909 So.2d at 629.

         Mrs. Rodrigue filed a disputed claim for compensation against the School Board and its insurer. At issue before the Workers' Compensation Judge (WCJ) was whether Mrs. Rodrigue's chemical sensitivity condition was casually related to her employment, and if so, what medical and related expenses are recoverable in connection with the treatment of that condition. On March 20, 1997, the WCJ rendered judgment in favor of Mrs. Rodrigue and against the School Board, entering the following decrees: (1) Mrs. Rodrigue's occupational disease and related disability resulted from overexposure in the work place and was causally related to her employment with the School Board; (2) medical and related expenses resulting from the overexposure, as prescribed by Dr. Rea in the reasons for judgment, were medically reasonable and necessary, and therefore, recoverable; (3) the School Board shall be responsible for past and necessary medical expenses incurred by Mrs. Rodrigue and those expenses reasonable and necessary to modify her home and obtain the appliances and devices recommended by Dr. Rea in the reasons for judgment; and (4) the School Board "shall be responsible for the continuing reasonable and necessary medical care and expenses as recommended by Dr. Rea." Rodrigue v. Lafourche Parish School Board, 94-08832 (La. Office of Workers' Compensation District 09 3/20/97) (hereinafter referred to as "the 1997 judgment"). The written reasons for judgment, incorporated into the 1997 judgment, set forth 20 items contained in Dr. Rea's prescription orders, that were determined by Dr. Rea to be reasonable and necessary as part of Mrs. Rodrigue's continuing treatment, including:

1) Home carpet replacement;
2) Organic food:
3) Home sauna;
4) Air purification system for home and car, and a portable one;
5) Organic cotton pillow;
6) Water purifier for household use;
7) Glass cookware and dishes;
8) Spring with mattress pad;
9) Carbon filters for air and heating units;
10) Bottled glass water for home and travel use;
11) Carbon filter masks;
12) Syringes and towelettes for receiving antigen treatments;
13) Chemicals for use in sauna, referred to as sauna ...

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